One reason young marriage seems so out-of-place in this day and age is the fact that most young people are much less mature than earlier generations were at the same age. Years ago, it was common to get a steady job and start a family right out of high school. That’s practically laughable today. But regardless of the times we live in, maturity is something you must possess to be successful in marriage.
What does that mean? A few things. Mature people approach marriage with a strategy. They know the end goal–to maintain health and happiness–and don’t allow their emotions to throw monkey wrenches. (Well, not regularly. We all have our off days.) If you display the following behaviors, your immaturity may be affecting your marriage.
1. Airing your business
Be it online or in person, sharing your personal business with just any ol’ body is never a good idea. In fact, sharing it with friends and family isn’t usually beneficial either. It’s important to have someone you can turn to in times of distress, but I’m talking someone who has proven him or herself as a nonjudgmental listener who can maintain confidentiality. Most people don’t fit that description. Mature people know their angry words can come back to haunt them, so they are selective when discussing marital issues.
2. Withholding respect when you’re upset
This is something my children do. When they’re getting along, they have nothing but kind words to say to each other, but when they’re mad, I hear things like. “Get off me, you hiney!” and “You’re a bootie!” (I also hear crying, hitting, and tussling.) They’re still toddlers though, so I let it slide. I understand they’re still developing cognitively and in a state of self-focus, but an adult should be different. You should have evolved beyond that.
Respect is not optional in a marriage. It’s not something you offer whenever you get the feeling. It must be a fixture, a solid unwavering presence. That doesn’t mean you can’t get upset or that you can’t express that anger. It just means you can’t recede back into your 4-year-old self and start name-calling, door-slamming, and tire-slashing. Really, it’s about choices, knowing we have them. When you’re upset, you don’t have to behave childishly. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You can, if you choose, behave differently. You can, if you choose, behave in a way that mends instead of shreds.
3. Being spiteful
Spite is like acid; it erodes love. It can eat a hole through your marriage faster than the most ravenous fire. Why? Because its intentional harm. It’s one thing to cause harm on accident, but to do it intentionally means your express goal was to hurt the person you love. That never makes sense, and it discourages trust and vulnerability. Who would want to trust you and be unguarded when they know you might hurt them… on purpose.
4. Flirting with other people
I’m old school. I don’t play that. I know some people say flirting is harmless as long as you don’t act on it, but I just can’t agree. Even if you don’t take it any further, it’s a suggestion that you might be willing. Why put that out there? I look at it like this: If someone were ever to start a rumor about me being unfaithful, would my reputation, my behavior, speak up for me? Would people think, “Nad? Nah, that doesn’t even sound right.” Or would they say, “Yep, I can believe it.”
People will try to infiltrate your marriage on their own. No need to invite them in.
5. Throwing low blows
Some things are just never ok. Period. Don’t try to justify it. Don’t convince yourself its ok. Just hold yourself to a higher standard. In case you’re wondering what a low blow is, it’s saying or doing something uncalled for that only exacerbates the problem and often has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Examples? Insulting your mate’s family, bringing up past problems that were supposedly resolved, attacking their insecurities, or just saying the meanest, most ratchet thing you can think of. Those are all low blows. Avoid them at all costs.
In the middle of an argument, your goal should be to resolve the problem. You should want to understand and be understood. If that doesn’t seem possible in the moment, take a break. Agree to discuss it again later after things have cooled down. Anything that doesn’t help you reach your goal shouldn’t be said.
6. Not thinking about the future
You have a duty to your spouse to plan. A marriage is about building a life together. That can’t be done haphazardly. You have to brainstorm, draw up drafts, take measurements, create blueprints, and implement. If you’re living strictly in the moment and paying no attention to how you two will grow as a unit, you should reexamine your dedication. Do you want this marriage to last? Do you want it to grow into something greater than it is? That won’t just happen on its own.
7. Not presenting a united front
You two are a unit. You should know that, and so should everyone else. If anyone calls into question your spouse’s character outside of his presence, its your job to stand up for him even if it’s your friends or family. In the same way that you maintain a high level of respect for your him, you should encourage others to do the same. Even if you had a huge fight the day before, others should know his name will not be disparaged as long as you are around to stop it. You can’t control what other people say or do, but you can affect how comfortable they are saying disrespectful things in your presence. Maturity involves taking a stand when its necessary regardless of how uncomfortable or upset it may make other people.